Recently I made a trip to Dublin, Ireland to mark the end of the year 2015.
Even though the trip was only for 3-4 days and majorly a city break, Ireland has long been a place I have wanted to visit but somehow it never worked out.
I started with Dublin, which has been a favourite destination to visit ever since I saw the movies ‘Once’ and ‘Leap Year’- it just sounds so romantic!
We landed in Dublin after a better than expected Ryanair flight. We were lucky to get checked in straightaway into our lovely Hotel Ashling by noon, even though checkout was not until 3pm ! Thank you very much, Hotel Ashling. As we were newly married, they even left us a welcome card and lovely chocolates to welcome us!
After a quick fresh up, we went straight to a pub next door to have our very first Guinness on the soils of Ireland. There are 2 pubs about 2 minutes from the hotel, Ryan’s and Nancy Hands, and over the course of the next few days we tried both. The food in both pubs is highly recommended.
Post lunch we went for a stroll towards the Kilmanhaim Gaol – which a colleague had recommended as a must visit. Unfortunately by the time we reached all tickets had been sold out and they didn’t have an option to book online so we got a picture of the entrance instead.
Later we headed for the nearby Irish Museum of Modern Art which was open (lucky) and free entry! It was starting to get dark but we did manage to click a few photographs!
Our first evening in Dublin, we decided to soak in some Irish culture and head to Johnnie Fox’s – another recommendation. It is one of the highest pubs in Ireland and is up in the mountains so getting there was quite interesting! I recommend taking the shuttle bus as advertised on their website, otherwise it will be an expensive taxi ride.
We also recommend skipping lunch as the dinner was a 3 course meal; not small portions either and too good to waste
Once there (a good 45 minute coach drive from Central Dublin), you are escorted to this massive dining hall with a stage. Don’t be fooled by the small façade of the pub – it really is a huge pub inside with various extended seating areas and live music.
For my 3 courses – I had the most delicious sea food chowder and home made bread followed by sea food pie and Irish Whisky Pudding.
After the main course, the first set of Irish music started with a quartet playing well known Irish folk music. After an hour or so, the stage rises up (literally) to welcome the Irish dancers. As I tap away on my laptop writing this, I am reminded of the tapping of their feet on the stage.
Day two was a cold and wet day in Dublin, so the best way to spend it was indoors. What better than a visit to the famous Guinness Storehouse. Luckily the Ashling hotel is only 7-8 minute walk to the Storehouse, so after a quick breakfast of ham and cheese toasties and black coffee at the local Sugar Loaf inside Heuston station, we headed over. I would recommend pre-booking online as there was quite a queue when we got there. Allow 2-3 hours if you want a thorough tour of the Brewery and want to really understand the process behind the making of the Guinness empire . It does help that the actual brewery is next door and fully functioning so you get the authentic picture. Don’t forget to use your tickets to grab your free pints. You can get this in two places, towards the end of your tour. One is the Academy where you can pour your own perfect pint. However I recommend going to the Gravity bar located on the top level to get your free pint while you take in a 360-degree view of Dublin. And yes, the Guinness there was the one of the tastiest pints I have ever had.
It was a 12 hour day with the bus stopping at Belfast, Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giants Causeway.
Personally I was a bit underwhelmed by Giants Causeway and thought the Rope Bridge was way more spectacular but that’s just my personal opinion. However the fresh coastal walks and mountain air really rejuvenated our spirits at both places.
On our last full day in Dublin we decided to take the Dart and visit the nearby town of Howth. It is a quaint harbour village in north-east Dublin. It’s a sea food haven and a place to try Dublin Bay prawns. The waterfront has plenty of smart cafes that offer the freshest of sea food. Wright’s of Howth and Beshoff’s seem to be the big players here.
If it’s pubs you want, might I recommend the Abbey Tavern for a cozy off the high street destination, though O’Connells seemed busy and buzzing too.
Closer to the station, the Bloody Stream was also a nice character pub with a fireplace and charming candles.
Howth is a perfect day out to have coastal walks, or if you fancy sight seeing then the Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio offers stunning views of the harbour and marina
The Howth Abbey nearby was also quite surreal .
We spent the last evening of our Dublin trip having dinner at the Ryan’s and FXB Steakhouse with some of the juiciest Irish beef steaks with creamy mash and peppercorn sauce. Booking in advance is highly advisable.
I like to conclude by saying that although we covered a lot in our 4 day trip to Dublin, we feel we have only scratched the surface.
I would definitely be back – perhaps for summer so I could take advantage of the weather to conquer the coastal paths .
Last but not least, what makes Dublin special and binds it all together is the people. Not so much at the city centre but go slightly off the beaten track and try out the pubs and the locals are extremely friendly and lovely to talk to!
Till my next post, I leave you with a little poem that summarises Dublin for me:
A fun city on the banks of river Liffey
So impressed, the bars are so spiffy
The hidden charms to which we are privy
You have our heart, we will be back in a jiffy!
NEXT STOP, MALTA!